Critique of biopolitical violence
(2021) Critical Studies on Security
Written 100 years ago, Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of violence’ offers an escape from the biopolitical spiral into death. It confronts the violent underside to a politics of life by refusing to justify force on set political-legal grounds, and, by offering readings that continually undermine any official position. First, critique is mindful of the spurious ends and means of biopower: the violence deployed to protect life that requires evermore force against anything threatening, and, the violence said to optimise life that eliminates anything debilitating. Second, critique moves beyond such justifications. It does so in reference to Benjamin’s concept of the divine that appreciates violence through criteria irreducible to official foundations. An understanding of violence is not mediated by government, but continually extended in how individuals live such violence in novel ways. A critique of biopolitical violence accordingly moves from a deadly productivity coincident with political-legal authority (the violence of bio-power), to how such violence generates new ways of thinking and acting (a bio-politics of violence). © 2021 York University.
Biopolitics; Michel Foucault; necropolitics; violence; Walter Benjamin